Steadily Improvimg: The Lady Razorbacks had another solid weekend of competition as they steadily improve their marks. Junior Peter-Gaye Beckford had perhaps the most impressive weekend with a NCAA automatic qualifier in the long jump and a near qualifier in the triple. As a team, Arkansas finished fourth to some of the nation’s best squads, it was its fourth consecutive top five finish at the meet.
Next Up: The Lady Razorbacks return to Fayetteville this weekend for the ninth annual Tyson Invitational at the Randal Tyson Track Center. Arkansas is schedule to compete a full roster of athletes, showcasing the entire Lady Razorback squad to the nation and some of its best on television on Friday night.
TV Time: With the Tyson Invitational come added responsibilities. Included in those are the professional portion of the meet on Friday night as well as the addition of ESPN. The two-hour professional portion of the Tyson meet on Friday night is scheduled to air on TV on Sunday evening, February 10 at 4:00 p.m. central.
Welcome Elites: The Randal Tyson Track Center is known throughout the world as one of, if not the, fastest sprint tracks in the world and because of that the Tyson Invitational draws numerous competitors both domestic and international. The 2008 installment is no different as a host of future Olympians descend upon Fayetteville for the premier indoor track and field event in the country.
Backing Up the Provisional: Junior Peter-Gaye Beckford was impressive at the J.D. Martin Invitational with a provisional qualifier in the long jump, she backed it up this weekend with an auto qualifier in the event and the third best jump in the country this year. Beckford launched herself to a distance of 20-10 1/2 for her auto mark which quarantees her spot at next month’s NCAA Championship.
Second Best: Peter-Gaye Beckford’s long jump of 20-10 1/2 was also impressive as it was the second best jump in University of Arkansas history. The mark was just three-quarters of an inch shy of Angel Heath’s 2003 long jump of 20-11 1/4 which she hit at the SEC Championships in Gainesville, Fla. Beckford’s mark also eliminated her then fifth-best jump in school history from the J.D. Martin.
Coming Around: What has been most impressive with Peter-Gaye Beckford this fall is how she has improved since last season. Beckford was good last season, but is quickly making a name for herself in 2008.
A Lady’Back Record: During her first collegiate pentathlon, senior Peter-Gaye Beckford set a Lady Razorback record. Her long jump of 19-10 1/4, exceeded the mark of Deedee Brown set during the 2002 season.
The Tyson Schedule: While it has not been finalized as of yet, one can expect that the Tyson Invitational will begin on Friday morning around 10:00 a.m. and run through 5:00 p.m. At that time the facility will be cleared out and reopened at 7:00 p.m. for the professional portion of the Invitational. Saturday’s competition is slated for a 10:00 a.m. start and should wrap up around 5:00 p.m.
Rankings: The week two rankings were released last Wednesday afternoon and the Lady Razorbacks remained unchanged, holding steady at number four. In fact, the Lady’Backs gained 18.06 points with their weekend qualifiers to close the gap on the top three schools, LSU, Tennessee and Texas A&M.
Arkansas’ 2008 Ranking: After beginning the 2008 season at nine, Arkansas moved up to four in the first set of rankings and have remained there.
Next Rankings: The next set of USTFCCCA rankings is scheduled to be released on Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 13.
Kalmer #4: With a splendid run at the UW Invitational last weekend, Christine Kalmer posted the fourth fastest 3,000-meter run in Arkansas history. Her time of 9:13.62 is one of the fastest in the nation and is Arkansas’ first NCAA Automatic qualifier of the season. Kalmer’s time trails her own school record by three seconds.
A Weekend Off: After running such an impressive 3,000 meters at the UW Invitational, Chrisitne Kalmer and a good portion of the Lady Razorback distance team took last weekend off from competition to prepare for the Tyson Invitational.
Chasing Herself: Christine Kalmer was three seconds shy of the Lady Razorback record which she set last season at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational. At the meet last season she clocked 9:10.62, exactly three seconds faster than her UW Invitational time to break the mark of Lilli Kleinmann who ran 9:11.21 in 2000.
Kalmer’s Year: Two races and Christine Kalmer already has her ticket to the NCAA Championships. After missing the first meet of the season returning from her native South Africa, Kalmer joined the Lady Razorbacks at the Razorback Invitational and ran a very competitive mile. After getting her feet wet, Kalmer returned to the track in the 3,000 at the UW Invite and posted a NCAA automatic qualifier.
Where You’ll Find the Lady’Backs: The Lady Razorbacks are scattered throughout the Tyson Invitational with emphasis being put on the 3,000 meters and sprints. Five Lady Razorbacks are scheduled to appear in various sections of the 3K while the sprinters put renewed effort into the 400 meters after an impressive weekend in New York.
Back-to-Back Qualifiers: Getting off to a slow start this season, Stephanie Irwin is back to her normal impressive self in the pole vault. Opening the year with two sub-par efforts, the Mt. Ida, Ark., native has put together back-to-back weekends of 13-5 vaults and looks poised to go even higher.
Two-Time all-American: Stephanie Irwin parlayed last season’s New Balance Championship into a trip to the NCAA Indoor Championships where she earned her first all-America honor. The momentum carried outdoors where she earned her second.
Irwin Gets a Qualifier: After two weeks of misses at 13-2, Stephanie Irwin finally flew over that bar and 13-6 1/4 to get her NCAA qualifier. Irwin’s jump wasn’t a career best, but her attempts at the next bar 13-9 1/4 would have been for the two-time all-American.
Two in the Top Seven: The tandem of Stephanie Irwin and Katie Stripling are the best 1-2 punch in the NCAA pole vault field. Stripling is currently ranked fourth in the country with her 13-8 1/4 effort and Irwin is seventh with her 13-6 1/4.
What a Year, in Two Weeks: In just the first two weeks of the season, Katie Stripling established herself as one of the nation’s best collegiate pole vaulters. She won her second collegiate event, first indoors, at the SEC-Big Ten Challenge and for two weeks held the nation’s best pole vault mark at 13-8 1/4. Stripling’s one loss in those two weeks was to aspiring Olympic hopeful and 15-foot vaulter April Steiner.
Top Five: With her clearance of 13-8 1/4, Katie Stripling put herself in elite company, top five among Arkansas pole vaulters. The Lady Razorbacks have a long list of all-American pole vaulters and Stripling’s effort at the Arkansas Invitational puts her among that group.
SEC Field Athlete of the Week: For her at the Arkansas Invitational, Katie Stripling was named the SEC Field Athlete of the Week. The honor is the second of Stripling’s career joining her award from last spring after she won the Penn Relays pole vault competition. Stripling is the eighth Lady Razorback to take an athlete of the week honor indoors and the second pole vaulter (April Steiner two times).
Stripling’s History: A native of Jonesboro, Ark., Katie Stripling came to Arkansas with little experience in the pole vault as she floated between the high jump and vault in high school. Redshirting her freshman season (2006), Stripling had a decent indoor season in 2007 and exploded on the scene outdoors with her first 13-foot jump and the Penn Relays Championship of America.
Where They Rank: If the indoor track season were to end today, Arkansas would be well represented at the NCAA Championships as only one of its 10 NCAA qualifying performances rank under 20th and six are among the nation’s top eight. The performance closest to the top is Christine Kalmer’s automatic run at the UW Invitational which sits fourth followed by Peter-Gaye Beckford’s long jump (tied for fourth) and Katie Stripling’s pole vault (fourth).
Consistency: If there is one thing that Makeatha Cooper has been this winter its consistent. She has run between 8.27 and 8.4 all season long and is poised to dip into the low 20s or teens in the next couple of weeks. Always seeming to get stronger within each competition, Cooper’s finals times usually at marked improvements from her prelims mark.
A Great Opener: Senior Makeatha Cooper did not compete indoors in 2007 but wasted no time making a name for herself in 2008. The Grand Prairie, Texas, native clocked one of the fastest times in recent Lady Razorback memory in the 60-meter hurdles and notched a solid NCAA provisional qualifier with her 8.30 at the Arkansas Invitational.
Backing it Up: After flying to an opening meet 8.30 at the Arkansas Invite, Makeatha Cooper backed up her performance with an 8.36 at the SEC-Big Ten Challenge. Since that time she has run back-to-back 8.27s giving her the consistency needed to run rounds at major competitions.
Year Nine: It’s hard to believe, but the Randal Tyson Track Center begins its ninth year as the home of Arkansas Indoor Track and Field in 2008. The building was dedicated in February of 2000 and since it opened its doors to the public, more than 100,000 people have come to watch track and field at the highest levels.
Another Solid Opener: Senior Dacia Barr is a veteran of the NCAA Championships and the two-time all-American wasted no time in getting herself considered for the 2008 Indoor Championships. Barr cruised to a 4:47.73 in the mile at the Razorback Invitational to secure a provisional qualifier and what is now the 23rd best mark in the nation. After the race, Barr spoke about being tired because it was her first race, but the mile prodigy is poised to crush her personal best of 4:44.43.
Career Opener: It should be noted that Dacia Barr’s 4:47.73 is a career best opener for the senior.
A Stunning Effort: The Arkansas coaching staff has been singing the praises of senior Etienne Chaplin throughout the fall and the Chicago, Ill., native came through at the Razorback Invitational with a near NCAA automatic qualifier. Chaplin scored 3,986 points to miss the NCAA mark by just 64 points. Along the way she posted career bests in three of the five events and nearly made it four as she was just one inch off her shot put best.
Third Best: We didn’t notice it at the time, but Etienne Chaplin’s pentathlon mark of 3,986 points is the third best effort by a Lady Razorback in school history. She trails only Deedee Brown’s SEC Championship effort of 4,141 from the 2002 season and Beyonka McDowell’s SEC Championship run of 4,076 points from 2005.
The Potential: One would think that with career bests in three of the five events of the pentathlon that the ceiling for Etienne Chaplin may be reached. Not so according to Arkansas’ coaches who see her improving in all five disciplines of the competition. Based on Chaplin’s five career bests at this moment, she has the potential to score 4,024 points.